A new Christian congregation called Light of theWorld is taking root amid the corn fields and subdivions of the Twin Cities' southern exurbs. Launched three years ago in Farmington after extensive planning by the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and several mission partners, LOTW has already achieved financial independence.
My family and I worshipped at LOTW yesterday as the congregation celebrated this milestone. My wife, Pastor Diane Sponheim, one of the pastors at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, brought greetings from SOTV to LOTW. (Yes, Lutherans do seem to like abbreviations.) SOTV has been one of the key financial sponsors of LOTW, whose minister, Pastor Deb Stehlin, formerly served at Shepherd.
With an emphasis on contemporary liturgy and community building, Light of the World reaches out to many people who previously did not have a church home or who seek a fresh experience of being and doing church.
One element of the contemporary liturgical approach was in the wording used for corporate confession and forgiveness. Here is how it began:
Leader: Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.
(Silence for reflection)
Leader: Gracious God,
Leader and Congregation: We confess that we have turned away from you and from our neighbor and have isolated ourselves in fear. By our own choosing we have become captive to sin. Have mercy on us. Break into the prison we have built around our hearts to keep you and others away. Breathe into us your forgiving Spirit and allow us to serve you and all people in newness of life.
Building prisons out of fear. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Hasn't a similar phenomenon driven America's prison-building boom of the last four decades?
With the practically blank check for prisons at last coming under budget scrutiny across the country, it's time to face our fears - and maybe even engage in a degree of confession about the overuse of incarceration as a strategy for dealing with social conflict. Confession would not only be good for the soul; it would open up possibilities for thinking outside the proverbial box.